#BlackatUark Twitter hashtag highlights racism at the University of Arkansas

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — “#BlackatUark is having a sorority on campus email black orgs on campus to cast them as SLAVES in a play.”

A quick Twitter search of the #BlackatUark hashtag revealed this story, short enough to fit in the platform’s character limit and powerful enough to reveal the racism at Arkansas’ flagship university.

This wasn’t the only one. Others accused professors of using the n-word, Greek Life organizations of racist actions and university administrators of silence amid glaring injustice.

The hashtag’s gone viral since it first popped up this week, and hundreds of current and former black students spoke out on Twitter. This comes as the country undergoes its most-significant civil rights movement since the 1960s following the death of black Minnesota man George Floyd while in police custody. Amid protests and demonstrations calling for overwhelming structural overhauls in law enforcement, businesses and local government, the #BlackatUark hashtag showed higher education isn’t immune.

“All the ongoing hashtags have been topics that have been widely in discussion for some time,” said Dekarius Dawson, a former UA student.

Dawson, a black man, said he experienced racism soon after moving to Fayetteville when he first enrolled.

“I had a patron ask me what tribe I was from, referring to Africa,” Dawson said. “I was like, ‘I’m actually from Memphis, Tennessee. That’s in America.'”

Dawson said he wasn’t surprised to see the plethora of stories from other black students.

“Yes, somebody puts out a statement [when racism is reported], but then nothing else really happens after that,” Dawson said. “So, no surprise.”

The UofA responded to the trending hashtag in a statement Tuesday:

“Chancellor [Joseph] Steinmetz and others on campus have been following #BlackatUARK and the experiences shared in that thread are powerful and painful testaments to the vital work we as a university and community need to do to make our campus more equitable and inclusive. Racist activities have no place on the University of Arkansas campus or anywhere in our world. Chancellor Steinmetz is meeting weekly with black students to listen, learn and develop pathways to make our campus more inclusive. We are working to grow that group to make sure all voices are heard as we work together to build a better campus and world.”

Steinmetz tweeted a statement of his own, calling the stories, “powerful, painful testaments” to the corrective work that needs to be done.

“These hard, real discussions are an important step to affect change together,” Steinmetz said.

The university’s Black Student Caucus released a list of demands on its Instagram page, imploring the UofA’s administration to make tangible changes to its daily operation:

View this post on Instagram

Swipe for our demands #blackatuark

A post shared by #BlackAtUARK (@blackstudentcaucusuark) on

  • Statement from the chancellor
  • Mandatory cultural competence training
  • Uncompromising punishment
  • Funds for black student life center and staff
  • Funding for black scholarships
  • Implementation of hate speech policy
  • Consequences for individuals under investigation
  • More people of color at Pat Walker
  • Removal of Fulbright statue and renaming of dining hall
  • Creation of committee to address demands
  • Diverse judicial board
  • More black staff
  • More black investigators
  • Funds for African and African American studies
  • Memorial statue of Silas Hunt, the UofA’s first black student

Dawson said regardless of what happens, he wants to see real change.

“Reach out to the higher-minority populated areas, increase scholarship access for us,” Dawson said. “There’s a plethora of things.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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